“It’s time to play the music. It’s time to dress up right. It’s time to raise the curtain on The Muppet Show tonight!” Over 30 years ago, Jim Henson’s Muppets took the airwaves by storm and debuted in their own original-run syndication variety show (the first of its kind in history). The series was a smash success around the world and ran for five seasons, and spawned feature films, TV specials, new television series and a slew of merchandising.
Though The Disney Channel’s and ABC’s 1996-97 Muppets Tonight series met with an early demise, there have been rumors about a new Muppet show for several years. Concepts have included a host of diverse ideas, from an edgy FOX variety show to an ABC mock reality-show competition to find America’s Next Muppet. Now, so many years later, it looks like Kermit and friends may finally be headed back to their roots.
It’s been reported that the Walt Disney Company has recently completed a presentation pilot for a new weekly television series starring Kermit, Piggy and the gang. The pilot is ten minutes long and is part of a proposal for a mini-series that would be shot in an Office-like mock documentary style. The mockumentary film crew would be led by fictional British filmmaker and interviewer Ian Bascombe.
The mini-series would follow lovable Kermit the Frog as he travels to reassemble his old gang so they can launch a new Muppet Show. Since we last saw the beloved characters, they have each moved on to new jobs and lives. Insecure Fozzie Bear is a solo stand-up comic (after spending a year writing for the TV series Moesha), headstrong Miss Piggy is an actress in Hollywood, patriotic Sam the Eagle works in security, etc. Once the group is assembled, they then have to plan, develop and produce the new show — and the viewers would see it all via the documentary footage.
The pilot, which is reportedly now circulating inside the Disney offices, was written and produced by Bill Prady. It was directed by longtime Muppeteer Bill Baretta who also directed the 2004 America’s Next Muppet pilot.
The pilot utilized the Muppeteering talents of Barretta (known for performing characters like Bobo the Bear, Johnny Fiama, Rowlf the Dog, The Sweedish Chef, etc.) as well as longtime Muppeteers Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Statler, etc.), Dave Goelz (Gonzo the Great, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf, etc.), and Eric Jacobson (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, etc.). Barretta, Whitmire and Jacobson perform some characters originated by the late Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, retired Jerry Nelson and busy director Frank Oz. The short pilot also featured cameos by actress Melina Kanakaredes (TV’s Providence and CSI: NY) and director John Landis (movies like Coming to America and Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video).
Though we won’t know for some time if the pilot will be developed into a full mini-series, the early signs look very good. Since purchasing the Muppets in 2004, Disney has been looking for new ways to rejuvenate the Muppet franchise. Insiders are hopeful for the mini-series and say that it is truly unique and very entertaining. Some say that it is very likely that the new mini-series will get the greenlight and would quickly be moved into production. If that happens, the mini-series could hit televisions by late 2007.
Even better, there are rumors that, if the mini-series is made and is well-received, this could kick-off a new regular Muppet TV show. The new series, like the classic Muppet Show, would follow the Muppet clan as they produced their show on a weekly basis. If past experience is any indication, popular film, music and television stars will be clamoring to take part in the show. We’ll keep you posted on additional “Muppet-ational” news so stay tuned!